Clive James, 80, Literary Critic Who Took His Wit to TV, Dies


Mr. James, who lived in London and Cambridge, is survived by his wife, the Dante scholar Prue Shaw, and their two daughters, Claerwen and Lucinda. In 2012, he and his wife separated after Leanne Edelsten, an Australian socialite and former model, revealed on Australian television that she and Mr. James had carried on an affair for eight years.

Mr. James continued to write and publish poetry, much of it valedictory. “Japanese Maple,” a poignant meditation on his impending death, ran in The New Yorker in September 2014 and appeared in the collection “Sentenced to Life: Poems” (2015).

[Read Clive James’s poem “Japanese Maple” here.]

The New Statesman published two others in August of that year, including “The Emperor’s Last Words,” in which he contemplates, among other things, Napoleon, a niece’s ambitions to be a writer and his own mortality, writing: “It’s time to go. High time to go. High time.”

He never lost his enthusiasm for television, which he reviewed weekly for The Daily Telegraph from 2011 until May 2014. This time around, he turned a somewhat kindlier eye on topics as various as the Eurovision Song Contest, the Royal Jubilee and Barry Manilow, whom he had once savaged but was now prepared to appreciate.

“What you’re hearing from me now is atonement,” he wrote. “Time has happened to me, and as the dark closes in I am trying to behave better.”

In May, he told an audience at a literary festival in London, “One of my ambitions, at this age and in this condition, short of breath and perhaps not long for this world, is to live until Box 4 of ‘Game of Thrones.’”

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